Choral Music

Richard Boukas has been a professional choral composer, arranger, vocalist and conductor for four decades. His extensive vocal experience in early music and contemporary repertoire manifests directly in his organic approach to choral composing and arranging: imitative contrapuntal textures, a keen sense of independent part writing and a flexible harmonic/ stylistic pallette which melds eras from the Renaissance to the present.


In fall 2013, Boukas shifted his focus from composing Brazilian jazz and acoustic chamber music to an ambitious Brazilian Choral Project
definitive adaptations of Brazilian classics  dating from the seminal nationalist composer Ernesto Nazareth (1863-1934) to MPB legends Milton Nascimento, Sérgio Santos (both from Minas Gerais), Guinga and Radamés Gnattali (1906-1988).

The arrangements to date are as follows:

• Áfrico*   • Abertura   • Sincretismo* (Sérgio Santos)
• Travessia (Milton Nascimento)
• Senhorinha (Guinga)

* requires guitar accompaniment

Instrumental Scat Choros
• Odeon (Ernesto Nazareth)
• Remexendo (Radamés Gnattali)

Four of these arrangements were premiered by the Queens College Vocal Ensemble (QCVE) under the director of DrJames John, Director of Choral Activities at the Aaron Copland School of Music in New York City. He is also artistic director of Cerddorion Vocal Ensemble. Boukas joined QCVE as guitarist on two Sérgio Santos compositions.

During Queens College's Year of BrazilQCVE presented four concerts including these Boukas Brazilian arrangements.

The audio player below features four arrangements of works by Minas Gerais composers Sérgio Santos and Milton Nascimento by the Queens College Vocal Ensemble.

The character of these arrangements is richly sonorous, tapping into the hallmark harmonic sophistication of Minas Gerais composers. Boukas sets the original Portuguese texts by legendary poet, lyricist and ubiquitous collaborator Paulo César Pinheiro.

Boukas has also written a collection of "instrumental scat" arrangements of choros by Nazareth, Pixinguinha and Radamés Gnattali.

Choral directors and educators interested in performing/recording current and future Brazilian arrangements and commissioning original works can CONTACT Richard Boukas directly.

View a summary of all Richard Boukas activities during the Queens College Year of Brazil.


Probably Boukas's most ambitious prior choral endeavor was his transformations of nearly twenty pieces based on Beatles compositions, informally known as "The Beatles Motets" (1987-92). Neither commissioned by a third party nor connected to a particular choir, performance or recording project, they were written simply to explore what Boukas calls "choral hedonism"– employing earmark choral devices such as madrigal word-painting, sophisticated contrapuntal textures and plentiful "legitimate dissonances" Boukas assimilated as lessons from composers ranging from Tallis and Byrd to Gesualdo, Monteverdi, Schütz, Bach and Brahms.

The result is a pan-stylistic reflection and potentiation of the original Beatles' melodies through liberal reharmonizations, motivic fragmentation and totally new episodic material. In fact, were the text not sung, the original melodies of some of these motets would not be readily recognizable. The pieces range from four to six independent parts: SATB and ATTB to SATTB and SATTBarB.

Since 2014 marked the fifty-year anniversary of the Beatles' arrival on the popular music scene, there is renewed interest in the Beatles Motets among various choral directors, and opportunities for performances and recordings are being explored.

The most ambitious of the Beatles Motets is the three-movement work "Cantata: Please Please Me" which is clearly a tribute to Bach and his highly contrapuntal choral cantata writing. This live performance is by the acclaimed Cerddorion Vocal Ensemble under the direction of Dr. James John, with whom Boukas has also collaborated in his Brazilian Choral Works (see above) performed by the Queens College Vocal Ensemble during the university's "Year of Brazil" celebration.

Following Cantata Please Please Me are two Beatles Motets multitracked in the studio by Boukas:

She's Leaving Home and And I Love Her.

Choral conductor inquiries are welcome for both Brazilian Choral Works and Beatles Motets.


Aside from his affinity for arranging and transforming pre-existing pieces, Boukas is actively engaged in creating new choral works in collaboration with established choirs and commissioning organizations. The texts he sets can be in any language, and the writing style totally responsive to the spirit of the text and the artistic/ programmatic interests of the commissioning organization.


Other Richard Boukas Composer pages:



Brazilian Choral Arrangements

Beatles Motets

Cerddorion Vocal Ensemble under the direction of Dr. James John. The ensemble gave a landmark performance of Boukas Beatles Motet "Please Please Me" (see audio player above, tracks 1-3)

Richard Boukas with James John, conductor/director of choral activities, Queens College/Aaron Copland School of music.

James John and Richard Boukas with members of the QCVE after their "Birds, Barber, Brazil !" performance.

Director James John and Queens College Vocal Ensemble warming up for their final season performance.